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Opposition Lowdown: Kieran McKenna’s Ipswich Town

Reading’s second-round Carabao Cup tie sees the Royals face Championship side Ipswich Town at the Select Car Leasing Stadium. Join us as we take a closer look at the opposition.

Queens Park Rangers v Ipswich Town - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Steve Bardens/Getty Images


Ipswich Town won promotion from League One last season after finishing as runners-up, three points behind champions Plymouth Argyle. The Tractor Boys had been relegated from the Championship in 2018/19 after finishing bottom of the league; they spent four seasons in the third tier, proving how tricky it can be to bounce back.

They have had a strong start to the season, sitting sixth in the Championship after three wins and one loss so far. Two of their wins have come away from home, beating Sunderland and QPR on the road. At home they have seen a win against Stoke City and a loss this past weekend to Leeds United.

They beat Bristol Rovers in the first round of the cup after goals from Jack Taylor and former Royal Sone Aluko. The two sides last faced each other in the 2018/19 season, with the first fixture ending in a 2-2 draw, before Reading claimed an away victory at Portman Road, winning 1-2 after goals from Nelson Oliveira and Modou Barrow.

The boss

Kieran McKenna: McKenna became Ipswich manager in December 2021, taking over from Paul Cook who was sacked after only nine months in charge. McKenna joined from Manchester United, where he was part of the first-team coaching setup.

He started his youth playing career in Northern Ireland before securing a move to the Tottenham Hotspur academy. However, he had to retire from professional football at the age of 22 after a hip injury, having never made a first-team appearance. Following his retirement he stayed on at Spurs, taking up a coaching role in their youth setup.

Ipswich Town v Exeter City - Sky Bet League One - Portman Road Photo by Joe Giddens/PA Images via Getty Images

He went on to become under-18s manager before then taking up the same position at Manchester United. McKenna was promoted to the first-team setup at United and became Jose Mourinho’s assistant in 2018. He later moved back into a coaching role at United before joining Ipswich at the end of 2021.

At 37 years old, McKenna is the youngest manager in the Championship. He likes his side to play a high-press and high-possession style of football.


Following their promotion back to the Championship last season, the summer saw Ipswich prepare for life in a new league by letting seven players leave Portman Road. Goalkeeper Joel Coleman, defenders Richard Keogh, Kane Vincent-Young and Matt Penney, midfielder Rakeem Harper and striker Joe Pigott all left on free transfers. Left-back Greg Leigh also joined Oxford United for an undisclosed fee.

They have made three permanent signings so far with striker George Hirst signing permanently from Leicester City after a successful loan, midfielder Jack Taylor joining from Peterborough United and goalkeeper Cieren Slicker signing from Manchester City.

They have also bought in two talented Premier League youngsters on loan with midfielder Omari Hutchinson joining from Chelsea and left-back Brandon Williams joining from Manchester United.

Ipswich are expected to make a number of changes from their usual league line-up. Goalkeeper Christian Walton will miss Tuesday’s game with a foot injury, while there are also concerns about defender Janoi Donacien and striker George Hirst.

Expected line-up

Slicker, Ball, Edmundson, Baggott, Williams, Evans, Taylor, Chaplin, Hutchinson, Broadhead, Ladapo

Key player

Conor Chaplin: Attacking midfielder Chaplin joined Ipswich in July 2021, signing from Barnsley for an undisclosed fee.

He started his career at Portsmouth and came through the academy there, before making his first-team debut in 2014. Chaplin spent four seasons with the first team at Portsmouth, scoring 25 goals in 122 appearances.

Barnsley v Reading - Sky Bet Championship - Oakwell
Conor Chaplin in action against Reading during his Barnsley days
Photo by Nigel French/EMPICS/PA Images via Getty Images

He joined Coventry City on loan in August 2018 and completed a permanent move to the club the following January. However, six months later he joined Barnsley on a permanent deal, where he spent three seasons, scoring 17 goals.

The 26-year-old has been a real hit at Ipswich since his move in 2021, with last season being his best to date. Chaplin scored 26 goals for the Tractor Boys, finishing as joint top-scorer in League One; this saw him named in the League One team of the season, while also picking up the Ipswich player of the season award.

He typically operates in the number 10 role but can also play up front or on the wing. Chaplin has strong finishing skills and already has two goals to his name so far this season.

One to watch

Omari Hutchinson: Highly rated midfielder Omari Hutchinson joined Ipswich on a season-long loan from Chelsea in July. He started his youth career at Chelsea, before then spending time in the youth setups at Charlton Athletic and Arsenal. It was at the Gunners where Hutchinson signed his first professional contract, however he never made a first-team appearance for the club.

Hutchinson returned to where it all started last summer, when he rejoined Chelsea for an undisclosed fee. He has made one first-team appearance for Chelsea so far and has joined Ipswich to gain some experience of first-team football. The 19-year-old has represented England at under-17 and under-19 level and has been capped twice for the Jamaica national team, making his debut in March of this year.

Hutchinson is an attacking midfielder who can also play on the wing and is a skilful player with strong dribbling skills.